Part 2: ONE OF H1S RESCUE STORIES
ONE OF H1S RESCUE STORIES
One of H1S is a 10-week series telling the Sage Harvest story of how two became ten ... and a jerky store.
We had only been married for a week when D.C. Williams sat me (and all of the cockroaches) down in his Army “geographical bachelor living quarters” to tell me, “I have good news, and I have bad news.”
(I have now heard this hundreds of times, and I am now onto his ways. He actually NEVER has good news with the bad news.)
The bad news was that he had been told the day before we flew to New York for our wedding that he would be deploying for a year.
And the good news?
I am still waiting for that part ...
After spending an entire dating relationship communicating via email and instant messenger, we were ready to live our lives in the same house, or at the very least, the same state, but married life together would have to wait.
So instead of moving into a home together, I moved my belongings to Reno to work on a nursing degree and he moved his into a storage unit as he set off for pre-deployment training and a 12-month deployment in Iraq.
After spending the first two tender years of married life apart, we were reconnecting over lattes on a car ride in California when the idea of adoption came up.
D.C.’s stepfather, though not related by blood, had loved him for most of his childhood just as his own, and he wanted to give back a portion of this lavish love he had always received from someone who wasn’t biologically his.
Although the conversation started as a “someday” idea, it ended as a promising route to start our family.
Ultimately, we decided we wanted adoption as a first choice, not an alternative, so the child who shared our last name would always know that he was never a Plan B in our eyes.
He or she would be desired.
“What do you think?” he asked, brushing my back with the hands that had been so strong and steady since the first day we met.
I kissed that man I’d missed so much over the last two years and told him we should absolutely look into it.
And by that, that motivated, make-it-happen man of mine assumed I meant we should bring home a child yesterday.
Because by that night, he had already researched the ins and outs of adoption, domestic and international, and discovered that of every program open and available at that time through the agency we wanted to work through, with our young age and our only two years of married life together, we only qualified for one.
He submitted the application for the Vietnam program that night.
Thus began what we jokingly called “his” paper pregnancy and our first venture into the adoption world.
We assumed, like most people, that we should get in line for a healthy infant. We didn’t even know there was another route. But when we received our number, we found out we were No. 173 … for OUR AGENCY … for healthy children ranging from ages 0 to 2 from Vietnam.
Something about that jarred our spirits.
Here we were, a young couple living in the most resourced nation in the world with the additional priceless gift of funded military healthcare, excited to bring home a child to love … and yet waiting on a list of hundreds of other parents for the perfect healthy baby.
God started working on our hearts, and we began asking a question that changed our worlds.
“Are we looking for a child for US or a family for a child who needs one?” we began asking each other.
That’s when we learned about the waiting child program.
A waiting child is a child whose file is already prepared and who is ready and waiting to be adopted. Most waiting children have some kind of perceived “needs” — older age, emotional needs, medical needs.
But their biggest need, we found out, was simply the need to be LOVED.
Shortly after, we received an email from our agency featuring a current “waiting child.”
There on the email were the perfect brown-black eyes of a 5-year-old boy with a contagious smile.
D.C. and I looked at each other and knew instantly.
He was our SON.
I called the agency immediately, but the agency let us know that another couple had already contacted them about this particular child. They, however, were waiting for the results of a crucial blood test before they were willing to move forward.
“The test shouldn’t be back for two or more weeks,” the agency told us. “So you have plenty of time to make a decision.”
“We don’t care about the results,” we told them. “No matter what he has, he is our son, and we say yes.”
We moved forward with the boldest yes we had ever given at that time — one to a little boy we had never met in a country we had never visited with medical issues we were still waiting to confirm.
The only thing we needed to know?
He had no parents.
His childhood was spent in the confines of an orphanage.
And he DESERVED to have a HOME.
Two hours after we gave our yes and moved forward with the boy who had waited half a decade for a forever family, our agency called us again.
“You’re never going to believe this,” said the woman on the other end of the line, “but the bloodwork that was supposed to take two weeks just came back.”
And the little boy we could have lost had we allowed fear to delay our obedience or change our yes became ours.
We began furiously completing the paperwork.
We completed a homestudy in Georgia.
And then updated it when we moved to North Carolina with the military and our child was still not home.
And then updated it once again when we broadened our parameters and expanded our hearts to bring a child outside of the “healthy baby” category into our family.
We got fingerprints and got background checks and got up at all hours of the night praying for this little boy we couldn’t wait to run to on the other side of the world.
We were smitten, and there was nothing we wouldn’t do for this boy God had already implanted deep in our hearts.
But anxiety began settling in.
The United States government and the government over our new son were at odds, and rumors of the Vietnam adoption program closing abounded. Couples who had already completed homestudies were told they wouldn’t be able to proceed, and agencies stopped accepting new couples to begin processes from Vietnam.
We were caught in the middle.
Our baby was overseas, and we were a plane ride and a few official papers away, and the thought of him spending the rest of his life not in the arms of parents but in the confines of an orphanage made us sick.
Please, God, we prayed. Just get us to our son.
Originally, we were supposed to travel in December, but the Tet New Year holiday moved our travel back by two months.
It was a devastating blow. Days seemed like weeks when our son was on the other side of the world and it appeared that the orphanage gates could close at any time.
But right after Christmas, the week we were originally scheduled to travel, I became sick and miscarried the baby we had found out we were carrying a few months prior. I had complications that required some hospital time, and D.C. and I were beyond grateful for first world medicine.
As it turned out, God’s timeframe for welcoming a new son was so much better than ours.
By the time we actually boarded a plane for Vietnam in February 2008, I was healthy. D.C. and I were healing. And our son, having opened our care packages and viewed our pictures, was physically and emotionally prepared.
But, as much as you try, there is absolutely nothing that can prepare you to walk into an orphanage in a foreign country.
As we walked up the front stairs on Valentine’s Day of 2008, the sounds of playing children echoed against the walls. Little faces of all ages peered back at us from behind the borders. And a hundred little smiles of children without parents greeted us, hoping we, too, may have come for them.
And, before we even knew it was happening, there he was — our son — half in mustard yellow, dressing to meet his mom and dad for the very first time.
My heart stopped. This picture I’d held in my hands for more months than I could count stared back at me in 3D, and it was all I could do to drop to my knees and welcome that tiny body into my arms.
He ran to us, held on with tiny, tight arms, and then pulled back to see the eyes of the woman he would now call mama.
And then he kissed my cheek, and my heart dropped to my knees.
He turned to D.C. who, by this time, had knelt to his height and hugged and kissed him, and then, without a second thought, he grabbed our hands and led us around the orphanage he had called home for five years.
For three hours, we played bubbles and balls in the orphanage courtyard, a place we assumed he had spent much of his life. We blew bubbles to the children who waited behind orphanage walls, and we ate lunch in their facility and got a glimpse into their world.
We couldn’t believe how this boy who had no context of mother or father had accepted us, embraced us, this little boy who had never seen a Caucasian in his life, not to mention one as tall as D.C.
Although public affection is not common in Vietnamese culture, he could not stop kissing our cheeks and grabbing our hands and showing us affection as if he’d known us his entire life.
At the time, behind that charming smile, he seemed to show no fear.
But we knew.
Later we asked him how he could be so brave as to get in a car with two total strangers who didn’t speak his language or don his same skin.
“Mama,” he told us when he knew enough English, “it was scarier to stay there than to come with you.”
Two total strangers from a strangely different country.
And yet, he nuzzled between us in our bed that very same night.
It was the first time he had received comfort and closeness from someone not paid to care for him his entire life long and his broken spirit began to heal right before our eyes.
His American name was Deacon, but his Vietnamese name was Yun, and he quickly learned how to articulate his feelings and desires in English using the mixed name “Deacon Yun.”
Within weeks, he would tell us, “Deacon Yun 5, 6, 10, 15,000 happy!” with the English words he was learning to assemble faster than we could teach them.
He was amazed by things like the moon and coffee stirrers and the sight of his own reflection. The world outside orphanage walls was just incredulous to him, and even rocks became objects of fascination in his sight.
Watching our little boy experience the world outside orphanage walls for the very first time did two things.
It returned us to a state of childlike wonder as we watched the magic of even fresh air and stars light up his life.
And it unveiled our eyes.
In his book Radical, author David Platt says this: “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.”
Deacon Yun and the hundreds of other little faces that greeted us in that orphanage were no longer statistics.
They were no longer faceless objects we could push aside for the sake of our comfortable and convenient American life.
They were priceless, precious children, all who begged for us to take them home.
All who DESERVED a home.
Though we could only at that time take one.
We knew then that our world would never be the same.
Deacon was precious, priceless, so easy to love and so easy to please. He brushed his teeth independently, got dressed independently and just wanted to hug and kiss us every second.
But he was fragile, and he had no concept of permanency.
If I took a shower, he had to lie on the bath mat beside me. If D.C. left the room, he had to go with him hand in hand. He was terrified to be left alone, forgotten or abandoned. We were first-time parents, and it was our pleasure and privilege to offer that constant physical reassurance that we weren’t going anywhere.
We returned home from Vietnam, where both our families greeted him at the airport. Relatives he didn’t know how to define hugged him and kissed him and welcomed him to this new life, and with this kind of surrounding lavish love, he believed that anything was indeed possible in America.
So much so that, shortly after returning home, he told a Vietnamese translator: “Deacon Yun want a motorcycle and learn to fly.”
Because if FAMILY could happen here, ANYTHING could.
Eleven years have since passed, and Deacon has blossomed into an incredibly bright 16-year-old artist and craftsman and a compassionate oldest brother who calms the baby and carries the rest. He carves and constructs kitchen tables from scratch, and his woodwork is some of the most beautiful inside our home.
But his most beautiful work is the beauty he constructs from ashes. He has the ability to look at the most broken situations and see hope because he knows firsthand what redemption looks like.
When he was in 8th grade, his English class studied the book Of Mice and Men.
In the book, George, a migrant worker, shoots his friend Lennie, another migrant worker with a disability, in what readers can contrive as a “mercy” killing.
His English teacher asked which students agreed that killing Lennie was done out of mercy.
Deacon raised his hand.
“I don’t think it was,” he said. “I was one of thousands of children in cribs in an orphanage, and people could have believed that my life wasn’t worth living.”
He’d caught his teacher’s attention.
“But across the world, my parents decided I was their son, and everything changed in a moment.”
His teacher, choking up, asked, “And Deacon, what is that called?”
“That’s called HOPE. Lennie’s story may have looked hopeless, but God could have changed that in a minute.”
George took Lennie’s story into his own hands, but George wasn’t the author of Lennie’s story.
And this boy who had grown up as the most hopeless of the hopeless in a separate orphanage facility for at-risk, medically-fragile children in the suburbs of Saigon had no hope.
But God changed that story.
But God restored those moth-eaten years.
But God transformed his “hopeless” story into one that didn’t end in physical or emotional or spiritual death but vibrant life that now touches so many others, including his peers and his teachers, every single day.
The thing is, we didn’t create that beautiful, vibrant soul.
It was already there — waiting to be nourished, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be invested in so that it could grow into the incredible creation it was always intended to be.
And around the world, thousands of other Deacons lying in cribs and courtyards just wait — budding artists, brilliant big brothers, master craftsman, just waiting for courageous someones to say YES.
People often tell us that Deacon has one of the most beautiful “rescue” stories.
As it turns out, it wasn’t Deacon who was rescued.
It was US.
That moment in that orphanage and that son so tenderly placed in our arms rescued US from a lifetime of selfish pursuits.
It rescued US from a life lived only for comfort and convenience, rescued US from a life of self preservation and self love.
We didn’t “rescue” Deacon; Deacon rescued US from the “easy” and self-centered life we could have prioritized had this treasure not opened our eyes.
And in doing so, He rewrote OUR story into something far more rich, more beautiful, far more wild and more wonderful than we could have ever imagined.
The One who authored the most beautiful Rescue story of all time with HIS Son used our SON to rewrite OURS.
So that we could begin to see that the LEAST OF THESE were ALL One of H1S.
Did you miss part one of the Sage Harvest Story? Not to worry, it's not too late to catch up! You can read part one, One of His Relentless Love Stories, on the Sage Harvest blog.